Always Wash Your Hands!

One day while Sonny was in 4th grade, he was getting over a cold and had a bad cough. His substitute teacher, Dr. Harvey, told him that he was "Typhoid Mary" and he asked, "who's Typhoid Mary?" She told Sonny to do research paper for homework (she knew she would also be subbing the next class day.) As you can see from the resulting report, Typhoid Fever has nothing to do with coughing, but has everything to do with washing your hands!!

Typhoid Mary:
A report for Dr. Harvey

Mary Mallon, born in 1869, was one of countless Irish immigrants who came to the United States in search of a better life. She arrived in New York around the age of fifteen, but not much else is known about her background because she hated giving information about herself. She earned her living as a cook in the hire of private families, and she must have been a good one, because her employment history between 1900 and 1906 (the only period we have to judge her by) shows no gaps.

The woman we now know as Typhoid Mary came to the attention of the authorities in 1906 when members of a household on Long Island sickened of typhoid. Their cook, Mary Mallon, had disappeared, and investigations into her whereabouts revealed that she had often been employed in homes that afterward subsequently had an outbreak of typhoid fever.

Over the course of her career as a typhoid carrier, Mary infected thirty-three people, three of whom died. She continued to work as a cook long after her condition had been fully explained to her, thus knowingly placing others in harm's way. At the time when Mary was front page news and the focus of the public's horrified attention, typhoid was running rampant. In 1906 alone, there were 3,000 cases of it in New York State, including 600 fatalities. Mary Mallon was high profile because of the manhunt for her, the lurid accounts of her arrest, but she was only one of 50 asymptomatic carriers known to the local health department.

Typhoid Fever is an infectious disease caused by salmonella typhi, a strictly human pathogen (that is to say, animals are not involved in its spread). It multiplies in the small intestine. Typhoid fever is not passed to others by coughing or sneezing, only through infected food prepared by unwashed hands or from compromised water (from infected fecal matter leaching into ground water sources). Its onset is marked by sudden and prolonged fever that causes patients' temperatures to rise to 104° or 105°F. Powerful headaches follow, accompanied by gut-wrenching nausea and the disappearance of appetite. Victims often develop bad coughs, hoarseness, diarrhea, or constipation, often in concert with skin rashes, inflammation, and tenderness of the abdomen.

The World Health Organization still identifies typhoid as a serious public health problem with an estimated 24 million cases of typhoid fever are reported each year resulting in more than 200,000 deaths in endemic areas.